Kwabna's father is a good man who sacrificed to get an education, works hard and provides for his family. He is a civil engineer for the largest construction company in Ghana, and each workday he leaves the house by 8 a.m. Following a long day's labor, he socializes with friends before returning home around 8 p.m. Although consistent with Ghanaian customs, his schedule leaves little time for family interaction. Kwabna explained, "I didn't often see my dad — he was not a family dad. He didn't play with me."
Nevertheless, this was certainly preferred by Kwabna to the model followed by some Ghanaian men who drop a few dollars on the table in the morning, then spend the day "hanging out" with friends, drinking and expecting dinner to be ready when they return. Their wives are often unappreciated and burdened with trying to find ways to provide as well as raise a family and care for the home.
A third and more intriguing model presented itself to Kwabna when he visited his uncle's home. There he observed a hard-working man, a leader in his church, who presided over a family that knelt together in prayer each morning and evening and sat down together for dinner. They faithfully held family home evening, attended church meetings together on Sunday and strictly observed the Sabbath day. Kwabna's uncle helped around the house and interacted with his children. He had a companionate and loving relationship with his wife, there was peace and serenity, and the family was close-knit and affectionate.
Kwabna, now a college student in Utah, explained to me, "You can tell a LDS Ghanaian citizen from a regular Ghanaian citizen. You can see the blessings that come from following the family and priesthood patterns found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."
In Ghana, the gospel is changing lives, changing gender relations and changing deep-seated behavioral patterns that, in many ways, separate husbands and wives, discourage men from working and providing, and negate male involvement in family life. As male Ghanaian converts come to understand their priesthood duties, husband and wife relationships improve, education is valued and its importance taught in the home, and fathers come to play an important part in the home.
Kwabna listened to the missionary discussions four times, but it was after he read the Book of Mormon "quite a few times," after the doctrine "just seemed right," after observing the cohesion in his uncle's home that, at age 19, he determined to join the LDS Church. While he described the "sacrifices" required of members, he also explained that as converts alter their lives and follow gospel principles "you notice the changes; you see the rewards."
"The typical Ghanaian wants peace and prosperity," Kwabna stated, "and they see that in the church." Mormon missionaries are now welcome in Ghana, and foreign missionaries are especially well-treated by Ghanaians who are a hospitable people. About the size of Utah, the capital, Accra, has close to 4 million people, and the country is home to 24 million people. The nation comprises a diverse mixture of ethnic groups, 47 local languages and more than 120 different dialects, with a literacy rate at about 70 percent. In Ghana today, the Book of Mormon has been printed in four different Ghanaian languages or dialects.
Ghana has wards and branches, about 13 stakes and districts, two missions and a temple. That Namibian pearl granite structure, dedicated in 2004, occupies a prominent place in the nation's capital. Its presence impresses, with Moroni glistening atop its spire, and creates a positive awareness for those not of the faith.
This is valuable, as Kwabna explained, because the women in Ghana are naturally spiritual. Most often women members share the message of the gospel, and many women join the LDS Church while the men tend to be more stubborn. Once they are members, however, most remain faithful, with a 65 percent retention rate.
While some members live comfortably, many are poor. Lots of men and young men cannot even afford to buy a Sunday shirt and tie yet they faithfully attend their meetings. They scrimp and save for missions, go and serve, come home and get into university or trade school, and take up a career. They testify that the Lord constantly watches over them. They know this because, having few material resources, they turn to the Lord and, in so doing, they consistently see miracles in their lives.
Many positive things are happening in Ghana, and Mormons are playing a role in advances there. As Kwabna testifies, the gospel of Jesus Christ betters lives. It provides purpose and direction. It strengthens marital and family relationships. It deepens friendships. It is a growing force for good in Ghana today.